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Why Artificial Intelligence Will Play a Big Role at This Year’s Masters


As the Masters Tournament kicks off on Thursday, nearly 100 golfers are vying to win the coveted green jacket. Collectively, they’ll perform more than 20,000 drives, chips, and putts over the course of the weekend. So which ones will you, the viewer sitting at home or at work or watching on your phone, get to see?

That’s what IBM’s Watson is here to determine. Beginning this year, the artificial intelligence system will help the Masters quickly decide which highlights to push out to fans. Watson will use a variety of factors to assign every single shot an “excitement level” score to determine which replays to roll out to viewers.

According to Golf.com, the A.I. system measures how exciting a particular shot is based on the sound of the crowd’s roar, the commentator’s analysis, and the players’ reactions. A chip that announcer Jim Nantz calls “nice” will get less of a bump than one he refers to as “outstanding,” for example, and a golfer’s polite wave to the crowd will be measured differently than an ecstatic fist pump.

Those factors then feed into an algorithm, which produces an “Overall Excitement Level” rating. The editorial team at Augusta National then uses those ratings to post the best highlights soon after they happen, so a viewer can catch up on the biggest moments he or she has missed that day or throughout the tournament.

The system is currently being used on Masters.com and the tournament’s iPhone app. The plan is to eventually give fans more control, letting them filter the videos to show only highlights of their favorite golfers.

It’s the latest application for Watson, the system that first gained fame for handily beating Ken Jennings at Jeopardy in 2011. Watson is used to recommend treatments for patients at some medical facilities, including the Cleveland Clinic and New York’s Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. And starting this year, H&R Block is using Watson’s A.I. to help with client tax preparation.



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